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Bob Nailor




Lay Lie

You're busy writing and suddenly your mind goes blank. Which is right? Harry LAID the book on the table or is it Harry LAY the book on the table?

Let's look at the words and first learn what each means:

Lay
means to place or put something down.
Present Tense: lay
Past Tense: laid
Past Participle: laid
Present Participle: laying

Lie
means to rest or recline.
Present Tense: lie
Past Tense: lay
Past Participle: lain
Present Participle: lying

Did you catch the little "got'cha" in the above? The past tense of lie is lay which is why there is so much confusion... BUT...

Try some of the mind tricks to help you remember which is which when you are writing.

LIE has an "e" which is also in "to rest"
LAY has an "a" and "to place" also has an "a"
or if you really need to think it through…
LAY means PUT. If you can "put" — use lay.

Examples:
First, to answer the question at the top of the page…
Harry laid (put) the book on the table. (past of lay)
The book lay (rested) on the table. (past of lie) Therein lies (rests) the opportunity.
You may place items, anything that lies (rests) flat, on the paper.
The book is lying (resting) on the table.
I was laying (placing) the cards face down.

Unfortunately, song lyrics don't always use proper language and definitely help to propagate the confusion. Consider Bob Dylan's song "Lay Lady Lay" which sounds beautiful but is so dreadfully wrong. It should be "Lie lady lie, lie across my big brass bed." Also, Eric Clapton's song "Lay Down Sally" is wrong. It should be "Lie down Sally&hellip" otherwise the image is that of somebody picking up Sally and placing her in his arms. Not really what I think Eric intended. Now, regarding Elton John's song "Love Lies Bleeding," it is correct. "Loves lies bleeding in my hands."

Now, go forth and lie down to lay down the rules.




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~ COMMENTS ~

Tamie Dearen
2014-11-10
Awesome, Bob! Love the little tricks. Now if my old mind can just learn these new tricks...
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-10
Tamie - I've discovered it is all about tricks to keep the mind at top peak conditions.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Elyse Salpeter
2014-11-10
This is a tough one for me because even though I look at your examples I don't "often SEE it." Meaning, even when I use the wrong word it still sounds right to my ears. Yet another reason I will always need an editor. It's like I have color blindness for grammar!
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-10
I guess the word association won't work for you and it really is easy. I use word association all the time. Of course, part of the trick is to remember which word associates with what word. LOL. Hang in there, Elyse, you'll get it.
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James Prescott
2014-11-10
Another useful post Bob, thanks!
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Scott Bury
2014-11-10
I agree with you - this problem drives me nuts. It seems more people use "lay" where they should say "lie"; given that languages evolve, we may be approaching the day where the meaning changes to keep up with usage. And that would be terrible, but inevitable.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-11
Unfortunately, our language is an evolving language and my question is simple - will those of the future be able to correctly read what we've written in that past? Are we correctly interpreting that which we've discovered - the Dead Sea Scrolls, the hieroglyphs, even the paintings on cave walls? Afterall, we blew it on the Mayan calendar! LOL.
~ Reply to this comment ~

Lisa Jey Davis
2014-11-10
I think people confuse laying and lying because to lay an object down is very similar to lie down yourself... so they may say I'm laying down... in error... but meh.... I can't even keep them straight half the time... I probably got it wrong here! LOL!!! So, in that case - GREAT TIP!! HA!
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-11
It's easier for us to say "We passed out on the couch" rather than figure out if we are laying or lying on the couch. LOL. When in doubt, always use a different word.
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Tara
2014-11-11
This is why a good editor is soooo important. LOL ….my head is spinning now. Good night!
~ Reply to this comment ~

Bob Nailor
2014-11-11
A good editor will catch these kind of errors but a good writer shouldn't make this error. lol.
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